What Were You Doing at 7 Last Night?

Study finds that people’s experiences around the world tend to be similar – National Science Foundation funds continuation of research with three-year grant

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – What were you doing at 7 p.m. last night? Nothing out of the ordinary? Maybe dinner with a friend, or catching up on some TV. According to a new study by a team of researchers led by David Funder, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, that seems to be the case for most people around the world.

David Funder

David Funder

“Generally speaking, there’s a surprising degree of uniformity in human experiences, in everyday life across the globe,” said Funder.

Published in the Journal of Personality, the results of the study “The World at 7: Comparing the Experience of Situations Across 20 Countries,” showed that people’s experiences at 7 the previous night tended to be very similar, no matter where they lived. The article’s authors included three doctoral students at UCR (Esther Guillaume, Erica Baranski, and Elysia Todd), and 26 international research collaborators from 19 other countries.

Funded by the UC Riverside Academic Senate, researchers conducted an online survey of 5,447 people recruited from 20 countries. Each participant was asked to recall what happened the previous evening at 7. Then they were asked to describe the 7 p.m. scene using a series of 89 statements, which included phrases like: rational thinking is called for, situation raises issues of power, or potential romantic partners are present. The participant ranked each statement from most to least characteristic, based on how well they felt that statement applied to the previous evening.

“In every country, people most commonly described the previous night as being an uncomplicated, or a positive social event,” said Funder.

Study participants also typically reported that social interaction the previous evening was possible, and that the situation was potentially enjoyable. The lowest-ranked statement was that someone was being abused or victimized.

The two most similar countries in terms of how study participants ranked their previous evening were the United States and Canada. The most different were South Korea and Denmark.

Funder and his team have been awarded a $454,866 three-year grant by the National Science Foundation to conduct follow-up research to extend data gathering to regions of the world that were not included in the original study, including Africa and South America, and to include broader measures of personality and behavior.

“The result promises to be the more comprehensive picture to date about how personality situations are related to each other, and how these relationships are similar and different across cultures,” said Funder.

Psychologists at universities in 39 countries have been recruited so far to participate in the follow-up study, Funder said.

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David Funder
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E-mail: david.funder@ucr.edu

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